By author Sylvia Kent (NB: information correct at time of writing in 2012)
Wherever you live in Brentwood, you won’t have to travel far should you fancy a drink, be it beer or wine. A century ago, the town boasted dozens of ‘watering holes’. At one time there were more than 20 inns and public houses scattered along the High Street. All seemed to do a roaring trade. Many more nestled in back alleys throughout the town and along the road to Warley. These ale-houses served the troops stationed at the Barracks. Some were small, consisting of one tiny tap-room. It’s odd to think that the population of the time was about one eighth of today’s, 70,000-odd. Pub names often changed but many remember the The Good Intent, the Lion & Lamb, George and Dragon (reputed to be the place where the Peasants’ Revolt began), The Bell, Yorkshire Grey, Sir Charles Napier and so many more, all now just memories.
Luckily we still have the former White Hart Inn (now known as The Sugar Hut Village) which thankfully retains some of its ancient historical character dating back to 1480. In its day it was the most well known coaching inn in this part of Essex, catering for travellers long before turn-pike roads. The inns waned somewhat along with regular travelling services when the railways became part of our lives from 1840.
Today, we also retain The Swan (formerly The Gun) which was once believed to exist opposite its present site. It has been rebuilt several times over centuries, and is said have been the last place where the 19-year-old religious martyr William Hunter spent his last night on earth. He was burned to death at the stake (in Ingrave Road) in 1555. The Swan is still a favourite with Brentwood folk much as it has in the past.
Warley pubs enjoyed a brisk trade supplying beer for the solders, most of which was brewed locally by Fielders in Kings Road or Hills Brewery in Myrtle Road. Some of the old pubs still thrive in the Warley Hill area, such as the Essex Arms, The Alexander, The Brave Nelson, Prince Albert, The Cherry Tree and Horse and Groom – among others – although some names have changed. The Brass Bar was popular and Horse Artillery were demolished, as was the Guardsman in Woodman Road due to the Mann, Paulin & Crossman take-over in 1926 from the Hornchurch Brewery. The demise of Warley Barracks around 1960, coupled with drink-drive regulations and expanding television viewing, sounded the death knell for dozens of local pubs but many old soldiers once stationed at Warley will retain fond memories of Brentwood’s numerous taverns.
An interesting aspect of the beer trade was that Brentwood had its own brewery just off Kings Road on the corner of Primrose Hill, its two deep wells providing the necessary fresh water. We still have the famous Brewery Tap as evidence of this trade. The town also had its own Maltings supplying malted barley for brewing. William Hunneybel was foreman of the Maltings in St James Road. His son, Philip was interviewed for Brentwood Voices in 2000.
He said: “Dad was a Brentwood man, born in 1905. He was an incredibly strong and hardworking maltster. At 5am each day, he stoked the two kiln fires with coal and supervised the lorry loads of barley, arriving from Essex farms. Though only 5 foot tall, he carried the enormous pokes of barley weighing 100-kg apiece which were trundled through the Maltings yard. After husk removal, the grain was barrowed to holding bins, soaked and steeped before being hoisted up to warming floors which it was spread with hand-ploughs till it was ready to shoot. After bagging up it was carted to Watneys and other famous breweries.”
William Hunneybel is still remembered by local Brentwoodians, long after the demise of the Maltings in 1962. There is now no hint of our past brewing days in St James Road which has now been re-developed for housing.
Brentwood Brewing Company, formed in July 2006, is successfully continuing the history of brewing and beer to this very day. With plans of expansion, the company is set to stay and continue to make top quality beer to supply those remaining pubs in Brentwood and the surrounding areas.
The old White Hart